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    3. Teen Crushes: Play it down!

    Teen Crushes: Play it down!

    Arundhati Swamy Arundhati Swamy 5 Mins Read

    Arundhati Swamy Arundhati Swamy

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    Mother, grandmother, family and school counsellor

    So your teen has started taking an interest in the opposite sex and you are worried about how to deal with it, right? Here's some help!

    Teen to 18+
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    Teen Crushes: Play it down!

    Dreamy, glazed looks, lost in thought, butterflies in the stomach.....whoa, the 'crush' bug has struck...and how. Goodbye kiddo, hello life! Yes, your little one is growing up, whether you like it or not. Welcome to the world of teens. The process of self-discovery has begun and there is no stopping it. It must run its natural course and play its part in the drama of life. The crush bug is relentless in its pursuit, stalking the unexpected, aiming its cupid's arrow at the most unsuspecting victim, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic; unnerving but ever so exciting.

    So what exactly is a 'CRUSH'? The onset of puberty is the precursor to a series of bio-psycho-social-intellectual changes. A crush or infatuation is that first flush of a strange new feeling, undefined and inexplicable. It is nature's way of telling us that all is well with the natural processes of growing up. The new uncertain feelings are part of the grand scheme of physical and emotional changes in early adolescence. Primary among them is the gradual awareness of an interest in the opposite sex, and that cannot be a bad thing, since we ultimately want our children to enter into long-lasting relationships as adults in the future.

    A crush is typically a one-way feeling, very private and intense. Crushes are entertained and enjoyed in the privacy of the mind. The other person is mostly unaware that someone is feeling attracted to him.  But guilt plays spoilsport, all because of the established norms of social behavior that do not always favor teen crushes.

    The safest thing about a crush is that it is usually short-lived, and this is precisely why we need not worry about it. Till the next one occurs! However, things can get complicated and confusing when teens discover that they can feel attracted to different people at the same time! Now we are talking about multiple crushes!!

    Is it time to hit the panic button? Not at all, because teens are simply starting to understand and acknowledge different attributes and characteristics of people. Usually, the attraction to each person is for a different reason. Teens are also testing their masculine and feminine social roles. They will define themselves and their world through their social roles. The crucial journey of discovery, of the self and the others, has just begun.

    Some teens tend to discuss their crushes freely among peers and this could lead to teasing and pairing up of individuals. They may begin to believe that they are 'in love', but it's actually a harmless crush. But when a crush turns into an obsession the teen may be filled with unreal expectations, resulting in disappointment and 'heartbreak'.

    How parents react:

    • The cautious parent switches to an advisory mode with all kinds of messages such as: "This is not the age for all this", "Concentrate on your studies", "Do not waste time on unwanted things". "But I can't help feeling this way," is what the child thinks helplessly. Yes, because these changes are being determined by their natural hormonal cycle and changes in the brain over which they have no control.
    • The parent in denial says, "Such things don't happen in our family", leaving the child even more confused. And nothing more is said! The teen invariably turns towards peers for support.
    • The liberal parent says, "Wow, when can I meet him/her?" While this may sound cool to the teen, it does not provide the support and guidance she may be looking for from her parents.
    • The over-enthusiastic parent discusses the matter with family and friends and playfully teases the teen. An embarrassed child could resent that his private space is being trespassed upon.
    • The understanding parent supports the child through this dilemma, seizes the opportunity to explain that the changes are a normal part of growing up, and offers reassurance. Remember the time when you had your first crush and what it felt like?!

    Tips on how to handle your teen's crushes

    • Help your teen understand the hormonal changes that are responsible for the natural physical attraction to people.
    • Understand the first flushes of feelings your teen is experiencing. They are normal feelings and she does not need your advice.
    • Give your teen the privacy to dwell on crushes. It's part of her growing awareness of herself in relation to other people.
    • Watch for cues from your teen. He may want to share his feelings about a crush he has on someone.
    • Encourage your teen to pursue his interests. His physical, mental, emotional, and emerging sexual energies can be safely channelized through healthy and creative activities.
    • Allow your teen to spend this phase of her life getting to know as many boys and girls. She will discover how comfortable she is with different types of people.
    • Stand back and give your teen all the support he needs, whenever he needs it.
    • Keep it light, do not overreact to or become melodramatic with your teen.

    So, there you have it. Your teen will most likely have not one, but many crushes, like it or not. The best that you can do is to understand, be watchful, and worry less about the crushes. After all, they are transient and mostly harmless.

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